A Travellerspoint blog

The Inca Trail- with a twist!

So it is time for us to do the epic Inca trail. We have been looking forward to this for months. A little bit less excitement now that we still have sore legs after the Colca Cnayon and everyone telling us how difficult it is....

Anyway, we meet our group the night before the trip for a briefing. Our guides Oskar and Saul seem very nice and the group which mostly consists of Irish likewise. Anyway, how come the Inca trail is full of Irish- most Irish we meet are interested in partying...and then the Inca trail!! Hmmmmm Although we have this guy in our group from the Uk living in OZ that straight away is telling us he will be trouble. He is storming out of the place because they missed that he wanted an xtra large mat and not an ordinary mat!! Yeah, that guy needs a life when that is what he gets upset about. Anyway, at the briefing we are told that because of a planned demonstration by farmers we will need to be picked up at 3am in the morning (instead of six) to avoid the demonstration. Yippey- NOT.

After about 1 hours sleep we get up for three to wait to be picked up. Surprise surprise...they are a full hour late. Luckily Susan and Chippy who are also staying at our hostel are entertaining...well as entertaining as one can be at 3 in the morning- and that is a big compliment.

So we head off in the bus and arrive at the village closest to where the trail starts as the sun is about to rise. As we drive along with our bus we are met by some sight- there are big rocks all over the road. Just before this we have picked up our porters (they are called Chetskis which means Inca runners in Quetchua which is the Inca language still spoken here). These are all tiny men who will turn out to do superhuman things as they carry all our stuff. We can not talk enough of how impressive these guys are....Anyway, the chetskis are ordered out with the guides to clean the road of the stones and like little ants they clear it within minutes. They jump back on the bus and just a few meters away we are met by an unwelcoming group of locals. Hundreds of farmers and locals are blocking the road and we are ordered to get off the bus and walk the last big as it would be dangerous for us to continue in the bus. As we begin to approach them we very quickly realise that this wont be easy. The farmers are desperate in every sense of the word- the are very poor by the looks of it, very angry and very drunk and there is no way in hell they will let us through. We quickly run back onto the bus and from there we watch as our guides try to reason with them and also as they are kicked and abused by some of the farmers. We are then ordered to reverse the bus (no choice as roads are very narrow) and go back where we came from. The Chetskis are also ordered to put back the stones. All in all this was pretty scary and not much fun to expereince....there would not have been many seconds until it could have turned into something nasty.

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Waiting around on the Machu Pichu railway for the demonstrations to be over
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Anyway, we are told by our guides that it is too dangerous to go ahead as the famers tell us that we will be attacked if we try to break through so we have to wait until they tire (or get polatic drunk and fall asleep)....for how long they are not sure but normally they should be tired by the afternoon. We have very little choce but waiting around and as we drive back we see loads of stranded groups just like us and they have even blocked the railway that goes to Machu Pichu. As we wait around we are approached by Peruvian TV and some of the guys in the group get to do interviews. We are offically famous!!!

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In late morning we see some tourists starting to walk by us with all their backpacks and they inform us they will try to sneak up the other way and chance it as they might now be too tired and too drunk to put up a big fight. This sounds dodgy to us but as we wait and they don´t return we make a decision to give it a shot. Thing is this would involve an extra 10km of walking in mountains and we are already very late...Anyway we set off and we have to walk through fileds with bulls, cross a river with strong current and we finally come to the spot where the farmers are standing (although it is at the opposite side of the river). They are blocking the road with very tall and sharp sticks of wood and look quite intimidating. It does not calm us when all guys are ordered to the front in case of a fight. Anyway, Saul, one of our guides start negotiating with them. It turns out that his brother ran for Mayor of the area (Ollantaytambo) the year before and he is from the area and known to them. After some discussions it turns out that they will let us through if we all give them a small tip. It probably should be added at this point that they were all pretty drunk and probably just wanted money for beers. Finally we are trough!!! Although we still have 10k to walk until we even reach the beginning of the trail. The plan originally was to walk for seven hours on the first day which is the quivalent if about 15k. It will turn out that we will end up walking for 8k more on the first day and many hours more....The fist day is supposed to be the easy day,mostly flat ground but when you add the extra distance it ended up being very tiring. But hey, at least we finally reached the Inca trail and we were on our way. We reached our first camp as the sun was coming down and had a fabulous meal in a tent that was set up by the chetskis. During the trail we will continously be amazed by the things that is brought for us and the food that will be served. Three course meals for lunch and dinner and snack times with popcorn and biscuts and tea. Personal bowls of hot water for each individual ahead of each meal to wash and we are woken up on in our tents with hot tea every morning. We can go on and on about it but it really is truyly amazing. It is like five star luxury only that we are staying in tents...

Camping in the clouds
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Ghost stories
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Anyway, the other thing worth mentioning apart from the fact that the nature on the first day is really breathtaking. It sounds like a cliche but it truly is. We also got to get entertained by our troublesome friend. It took about five minutues or so into our walking and he started complain that it was difficult. Well, he said he felt sick but....Anyway, he did not join us for dinner and early the next morning he announced he was going to return. This meant we would loose our guide Oskar who would have to go back with him. The plan was for them to meet up with us again on day four in Machu Pichu. we were sad to loose Oskar as he seemed like a really good guy. Mostly we felt sorry for him as he would have to walk and hang out with the grumpy fecker. It is no exaggeratoion- rarely have we met anyone as miserable.

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Our schedule was out now so it meant that we would have different target camps. Having never done this before it made little or know difference to us other than it would be a harder,longer trek. Day two is notoriously the toughest day. It was mainly uphill- SERIOUS uphill! We reached 4200 meters and the air was thin up there making it all the more difficult. The last few meters were bloody hard but totally worth the pain. However, we made it to the top and we had rain for about 10minutes only. It was great having the two scots there as they were fit and we just followed them. It should be mentioned here that Susan is a freak as she smokes 20 a day but don´t tell her dad and she was super fit too. The summit is known as Dead womans pass, aptly named as it looks like a giant tit! Impossible to get a hand on it though!

We made it to the top!
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Once we made it to the top we were met by an incline of anynumber of meters, i.e. 2 hours downhill. Downhill in general is tough on the knees and this was no different. The steps were original Inca steps meaning they were rugged and not uniform. So watch your step please!! We were due up at an ungodly hour the following day so we all hit the hay after another splendid dinner.

Day three was much the same. The same aul gang, the same aul amazing scenery, the same aul amazing dinners BUT there was a place to buy beers. We did this in earnest. We presented our tips to the chetskis and said our goodbyes to them. They were (tiny) legends. A good few beers were had but we were curtailed by another 4am start.

Last supper (and beers) with the gang
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The final day we got up at 4am. The control opened at 5.30 so to have brekkie and pack up the sleeping bags etc. We had a 2 hour trek to the sun gate in Macchu Picchu all through eally heavy mist. The mist whic was at strak contrast to the mountains offered some unbelieveable views.

Early morning mist
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Martin in the clouds1
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Martin in the clouds 2
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After 3 really good days it was obvious the weather was going to be crap on the last and most important day. From the sun gate (which is where you get the first view of Machu Pichu) all we could see were fluffy white clouds. It was unfortunate but we will no doubt download pics from Flickr and pretend they are ours!! We continued into Macchu Picchu were we would wait for quite a while for the weather to clear. Nob Jockey Moany hole was there to meet us as he had recovered from his near death sickness. Within minutes he was moaning again and after about an hours worth of rain he left. To come all this way and then to leave because of rain is uncomprehendable. What a twat....Anyway, too much airtime for him already. The weather cleared somewhat and we entered Macchu Picchu. It is a natural wonder to be honest. It blew both of us away, even if the clouds did mess with our pictures. It should really be said here that although Machu Pichu really was fantastic it was the journey there that blew us away and Machu Pichu was just the icing of the cake ( a cloudy one).

The "disappointing" views of the sungate
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Machu Pichu- as good as it gets!
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What makes excursions and treks like this is the group. We were so lucky as the rest of the group were fantastic. We had from Team Ireland: Susan, Chippy, Majella, Colin and Crea. We also had two gay scottish lads (okay, they were not gay...in case they ever read this!!!) Paul and Michael, two Danes in Marianne and Rolf and also a Red Liverpudlian named Dave. It was great to hang out with all these guys although difficult to loose them once we got back to Cusco as we constantly bumped into them....and drank with them!!

The Irish flag on top of Machu Pichu
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Our Team....
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Posted by kmandmc 16:03 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Surrviving the Colca Canyon

30 °C

One of the main attractions while being in Arequipa is to trek the Colca Canyon. It is actually the second deepest in the world and is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. Anyway it all sounded cool to us but we felt we had very little time as we wanted to spend some more time in Cusco so we were humming and haawing about it for ages until we decided feck it we will do it. So we booked with this crowed called Land Adventures that sounded good for 3 days and two nights. They all told us how fantastic it was but nobody told us this would be a killer....

We are told we will be picked up at 4am. Afer only a couple of hours of sleep we drag ourselves out of bed and wait in the courtyard in the hostel......for 1 hour and 15 minutes!!! Grrrrr...not happy campers at all. On the bus we zzzzzzzzz.

We arrive at the Mirador de Condor (viewpoint of the condors) at about 8am. There are a lot of tourists around all hoping to see the Condors. We are looking over this incredible canyon and that on its own is worth the trip and the early morning rise. We are incredibly lucky the see 4 or five of these unbelievable animals- they really are something else. Massive! One flies over our heads as we are getting back into the bus and had Martin managed (which he did not) to get the camera out in time it would have been the best picture ever...Hmmm

The path
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Next we arrive in the village of cochabamba where we meet our tour guide Vladimir. Our group consists of an Irish couple called Michael and Sarah and an Cyprian couple called Andreas and Lenny. Turns out that Lenny has got a severe bout of altitude sickenss and will have to see a doctor. While we have a dodgy lunch of Alpacha meat they go off with Vladi to find a doctor. It all takes much longer than expected and we see all other groups go off while we wait around. finally vladi comes back with this local girl called Marissa who is a local guide and says to go ahead with her as it is getting late and he will follow with Andreas. So off we go...

Views of the Canyon...
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Now to say that we strolled down that mountain would be a gross lie. Before we headed off we were told it would be a 6 to 7 hour walk mostly downhill (the last hour or so would be uphill). After about a 30 minute stroll we were told in no unceratin terms that we were in a hurry so we began to practiacally run down that mountain. That would be fine had the downhill not been at a 45 degree slope (that is bloody steep) with ridiculously steep drops on one side and mountain on the other and very narrow. Given that it was all loose stones we did a mixture of falling and sliding down the rocks! We were in such a rush that we nearly failed to appreciate the unbeleivable beauty of the place. Ater more than 3 hours of sliding down rocks we made it to a bridge and Marissa seemed satisfied that we had made up a lot of time so she told us to take it slower up the hill. The lads (Martin and Michael) slagged her that she was late for a date so that was why we were in such a rush! It took her a while to appreciate the jokes!

Another Colca Canyon view...
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We were relieved that we could take it a bit slower. Sarah and Michael had just done the inca trail and climbed up and down El Misti and said the Inca trail is a stroll in the park in terms of the pace we were keeping. Our legs were like jelly and then we saw the hill we had to climb to get to our lodgings of the first night which was in a village with a local family. Half way through the mountain uphill we meet a lady who is the lady of the house we are staying whith and she has come to meet us. We thought that meant we must be really close but no way. This lady was 53 years of age (looks older like most Peruvian women in the countryside). She put us to shame and as we struggled up the hill she was running up it like a young girl. Very embarrassing. The lady and Marissa came into their own right and started showing us the plants and fruits of the area. Only as we actaully arrived in the village did we begin to appreciate how isolated they live. To bring anything to the village that does not grow naturally is such and effort. Only human or mules can go there and it takes practically a day to go to the nearest village and back for anything. Once we arrived to the village and the home of the family the beer we had tasted so much better after the effore we realise it takes to get it there. And....those beers were well deserved. Once we sat down having the beer we realised the views were something else. It is an amazing feeling realising how remote you are when all you see is mountains everywhere.

Having a well deserved beer at the village the first night
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Martin unloading the rations...
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Karolina (on the left) and Karolina (the donkey on the right)..
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Sunset from the village
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Just as we arrived it was getting dark quickly and there was no sign of either Vladi or Andreas. Now although Andreas looked much younger and certainly acted it he is 50 years old and many stones overweight so we were worrying that if we struggled to get here on time there was little chance he would. After a while Valdi comes running in the dark and says he had left Andreas at the bridge and that he had come to fetch a mule to collect him to get him up the mountain. Now, the weight of stuff the mules carry is amazing and they say they can carry up tp 100kg no problem (martin got to feel the weight of stuff they carry as he helped Mauritus the man of the house unload his mules- see pics). Thing is that andreas would be a lot heavier than that...I think even Vladi was concerend the mule would not make it. Mauritius had obviously been prewarned by Vladi as when he left he asked Vladi what the name of the fatso was forgetting that we understood Spanish!!! Very funny...Anyway, after an hour or so Andreas and the mule come back..not sure which looked more tired!

We have a delicious meal prepared in ancient inca ways and in a really old style stove and kitchen. It really felt like going back in time. The family were very friendly and it was a fab expereince to get to stay with a family rather than an owl hostal. Afer a few bevvies and great food and company we fell into bed. It was very hard to imagine that the next day would be even more difficult.

We woke up early the next morning to help prepare an Inka breakfast. Karolina was given the task of frying corn on the stove while Martin was grinding it down - old style. The result was this big thing that looked like goo. we were told to eat it but none of us were convinced that this was actually edible as it had not been put into an oven yet. And it did not help that Vladi turns out to be a big joker. So we tuck into this very strange food (kind of like eating doe) which tastes quite good but weird all while Martin is loudly messing saying that there is no way this is edible and urging us all not to eat it. Turns out it is the way it is eaten...ooops Martin.

Karolina the Inca housewife..
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So after a lot of doe in our bellies we start walking down hill again down to an oasis where there are pools from water from the mountians. On the way we were picking fruits that we had never heard of and shown amazing plants that heal all kinds of illnesses including the famous san pedro cactus. Anyway as we get to the Oasis we are very hot and dying for a swim. Then it strats getting really cloudy and not very warm. But the setting is somethng else and it feels like paradise. We have a gorgeous lunch and hang out for a good while.

The pool at the oasis
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Lazy lunch at the oasis
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Then the walk up from where hell begins. It is nearly impossible to describe how tough the walk up the hill really was. K thinks that the effort involved can only be likened with running a marathon (although she of course never have ran a marathon-she imagines it is as tough). By the time we reached the top our legs were like jelly and every step hurt a LOT. K never thought she would make it. Martin of course walked up it like he had dynamite stuck up his bum:-). Despite the effort the feeling afterwards is fantastic and although it might not sound like it we did get to see the most unbelieveable nature. Totally worth it. When we reached the top we were told that Marissa our guide is the champion of the yearly run that locals and guides do the circuit we did. It took us like 9 hours to do the whole thing. Turns out she does it in just over 3 hours. No wonder we were wrecked following her. So it turns out we have been outdone by an old lady and a young (chubby) girl......

We have the most amazing shower in a lovely hostel and after dinner we had a few beers and a great laugh. Needless to say we were absolutley wrecked.....oh the pain!

Next morning we had some time to kill and Marissa comes up with the idea that Karolina, Sarah and Lenny (who has now rejoined us and feels much better) dress up in local Peruvian women´s clothes. The clothes are really fab and consists of wearing layers and layers of skirts ect. Sooo heavy and it is hard to imagine that some women wear this on a every day basis. We were hurded out on the main square and stirred up some comotion amoungs the locals and tourists alike as we were walked around and shown off in the town like sheep. A lot of pictures were taken and Martin was both shocked and equally horrified and delighted to see his wife turn Peruvian. We had a great laugh doing it and a lot of giggles were had!

Martin and his Peruvian missus..
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All the girls....
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Posted by kmandmc 10:59 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Lake Titicaca

Between Bolivia and Peru lies the highest lake in the world called Lake Titicaca. We decided to go visit it on the way to Peru but to see it from the Bolivian side where you stay in a town called Copacabana and take boats onto the Island from here. We are really positively suprised by Copacabana. It is small but really cosy and has a really laid back and hippiish feeling to it. We stay in a hotel right at the shore of the lake which has fab views of the lake from our bed room. That night we have the nicest trout ever- seriously good food and would stay longer in Copacabana just for the fish.

Next morning we take a boat over to Isla del Sol which is one of the Islands on Copacabana. it is possible the the most uncomfortable and crammed boat ever which does not bode well for Martin who really suffers from motion sickness. Boat ride takes like three hours and the scenery is fab. When we arrive we are told that we have two options- we can either walk from one side to he Island to the other or catch the boat from the same spot in the afternoon. We decide to do the walk which takes 3 or 4 hours. The day is fab and on the way across the Island we see Inca sites, loads of animals (donkeys, pigs- huge and tiny ones, sheep ect.- might not sound too exciting but really was cool to literally bump into all these animals) and met a lot of locals on the way. The most important thing was the scenery which is amazing. As with everything one really has to be there to see it for oneself.

Despite the altitude it was a scorching day hence the Josef and Maria headgear on the pictures (thanks Daniel) and the walk was a pretty tough one. Although as we will be about to discover as we do other treks really a piece of cake. As we arrive to the south side of the island we are pretty tired but have a nice picnic by the water. On the way back the boat takes us to see some floationg island which Lake Titicaca is famous for. Basically whole villages, boats, tables...everything are built of reeds and they live on them as they float on the water. Incredible. Unfortunately the ones we vistied were totally turisty and tiny and there were jjust there for show so a bait disappointing. However, if you visit Lake Titicaca from the Peruvian side it is possible to visit the genuine floating islands and you can stay over on them.

Floating Islands...
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Mary and Joseph on their way to Bethlehem :)
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Sunset over Isla de Sol..
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Posted by kmandmc 16:44 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

In prison in La Paz

So one of the must do things in La Paz is to visit the prison out of the book Marching Powder. It is illegal to go officially but everyone goes and it is supposed to be a real experience so we thought why the heck not. We decided to go on New Years day (very hungover) and you basically go and stand outside the prison until someone comes up and asks if you want to go in. A lady approaches us and we follow her...sign in with the very scary looking security guards and she brings us in to meet her husband Jack form South Africa and Sebastian from Holland. We are brought into their little apartment and it is completely bizzare as we are sitting there in their home hanging out with two prisoners who are very nice but very coked out. Thing is that in this prison the prisoners live with their families who come in and out all day and although it is not official. Coke is big business in there and a lot of prisoners are visibly high. All visitors are offered to do coke in there but we politely declined...Although the word is a huge amount of tourists jump at the opportunity to do cheap coke in the prison. It is a mental experience enough but to try drugs there is just mad. But hey all to their own. We get a tour of the prisons church, gym, school shops ect and all while kids are playing all around us...We finish up in their "house" where we listen to their stories which although interesting were all over the place. They were quite upset we were not in there to party but after politely declining the offer of coke for the 11th time we left. It was a really interesting experience and would not have wanted to miss it but so weird and pretty sad. When the prison doors closed behind us we were relieved to be on the other side again. Not sure if we would ever want to pay to go into prison again.....

Posted by kmandmc 14:30 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

La Paz

Death Road - La Paz - Happy New Year!!

overcast 23 °C

When in La Paz it is highly recommended to cycle down the worlds most dangerous road. We did this and it was brilliant. It was extremely dangerous in parts but the scenery, the speeds you reached and the all round fun of it all made it well worth while. It was approximately 80km downhill. You descend from about 4000m to 1000m in about 3 hours.

Before the death road...

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K powering through a river...
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The trip finished in a small town where every rests and takes a beer or two. Due to the fact it is rainy season it meant the roads were a little more treacherous than usual. Our vans got stuck behind a landslide which blocked the roads so we were left stranded for a couple of hours. We made our own fun! A football was sourced and we played ball for a couple of hours. It should be noted that a predominantly Irish (if you count Karolina as Irish too) were the over all winners over the Argies.

Eventually we were picked up. Most people were brought up to the small town of Coroico in a pickup. Not very safe but everyone was fine. We were lucky enough to get a taxi. Food and drink was provided in a lovely hotel that overlooked the valley, hotel esmeralda I think was the name of it. We arrived home about 6 hours later than scheduled but it was worth it. Although it was in a cramped hiace van it was a bit of a nightmare journey home. I think all journeys in Bolivia will come with a new tail of treacherous experiences. It was all in all a great experience!!!

The Bolivian Flag....
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La Paz:
While in La Paz we were staying in the Wild Rover. It was a great hostel with a great bar and the cleanest jacks in all of Bolivia! We spent New Years here too. Total blast. Hungover for two days though. Being the cultural creatures that we are we never bothered to visit any museums or anything like that (again). We simply roamed the streets and admired the hustle and bustle of La Paz. La Paz was a great city, it is like one giant market but a great experience.

Lake Titicaca and Copacobana next....then Peru!

Posted by kmandmc 10:08 Archived in Bolivia Comments (0)

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